Chronic pain can entirely change someone’s world, and it does not discriminate. While there’s a perception that famous people lead perfect lives, these celebrities with chronic pain prove that nobody is immune to invisible illness or the problems that come with it. Thankfully, though, these celebs also show that you can have chronic pain and still succeed and find happiness.
Keep reading to learn more about celebrities with chronic pain and their different experiences.
1. Gina Rodriguez
This star of Jane the Virgin lives with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease that leads to hyperthyroidism, and it makes a big difference in her life. As her show took off, Rodriguez experienced bouts of anxiety that worsened her chronic illness symptoms. However, after some trial and error, she realized that her thyroid medication was causing her panic attacks.
Now, she advocates for keeping a close eye on what your body is telling you. In an interview with People, she said that, “It is really important for us to be super self-aware…[Hashimoto’s] affects so many aspects of your life. I’ve had it for so many years…that rebellion of not taking care of myself can’t exist anymore.”
2. Michael J. Fox
This Canadian actor first noticed the early signs of Parkinson’s disease in 1991, when his finger began twitching on the set of Doc Hollywood. Fox was experiencing signs of Parkinson’s much earlier than usual, since this progressive nervous system disorder usually appears in people 50 or older. But at 30, Fox was diagnosed with an especially early case, and it changed his life forever.
As an internationally recognized actor, Fox started the Michael J. Fox Foundation to find a cure for Parkinson’s. And since its beginning in 2000, this non-profit hsa raised over $800 million in its quest to prevent more cases.
On his personal feelings of his diagnosis, Fox told Fortune that, “If I accept it, and I recognize it, and I look at it, and I’m honest with it, and I say, ‘This is what it is’…I can keep track of it…[But] if I don’t recognize it and I don’t accept it, it’s just this amorphous blob of goo that seeps into every cranny of my life and confuses things.”
“I have fibromyalgia pain in this arm, and the only thing that offers any relief is marijuana.”
3. Morgan Freeman
Perhaps best known for his iconic voice, most people don’t realize that Morgan Freeman lives with fibromyalgia, a chronic illness that worsens feelings of pain, possibly due to nerve damage. After an accident in 2008, Freeman’s left hand was paralyzed, and he was left with “excruciating” pain in his left arm and shoulder.
That treatment has given Freeman the freedom to continue with his life. In an interview with Esquire, he said that, “There is a point to changes like these. I have to move on to other things, to other conceptions of myself. I play golf. I still work. And I can be pretty happy just walking the land.”
4. Frankie Muniz
In 2012, Muniz had his first transient ischemic attack, a sort of “mini-stroke” caused by a temporary blood clot in the brain. Barely able to recognize his mother and girlfriend, Muniz was taken to the ER, where doctors had very few answers for him. Muniz was the picture of health, and they couldn’t find a reason for his mini-strokes.
To further complicate his situation, Muniz also lives with memory loss. It ranges from forgetting events earlier in the day to not remembering large events, like going to the Emmy’s when he was nominated for an award.
The good news is that Muniz has a system that helps minimize these issues. His mother tells him about events that happened years ago, and his girlfriend keeps a daily journal of their activities. It may not be ideal, but Muniz says it best in his interview with Entertainment Weekly, “This is my life and I’ve moved forward. It doesn’t stop me from being anywhere I want to be.”
Endometriosis affects millions of people with uteruses each year, and it has caused a lot of issues for Halsey. When she first reported her issues to doctors, they assumed she was complaining about normal period pains. In an interview with Health, Halsey shares that she dealt with “…doctors essentially telling me I was being a big baby about my period, or misdiagnosing PCOS, etc etc. Finding out that I had [endometriosis] was the most bittersweet moment because it meant I wasn’t crazy!”
Armed with a diagnosis, Halsey decided to take charge of her own health. She froze her eggs to protect her fertility and underwent several procedures aimed at minimizing her chronic pain. Following one such surgery, she told her followers that, “If you suffer from chronic pain or a debilitating disease please know that I have found time to live a crazy, wild, rewarding life AND balance my treatment and I hope so much in my heart that you can too.”
6. Nick Cannon
Nick Cannon made a career as an actor, comedian, musician, director, and producer, but he was dealt an unexpected blow in 2012 when he was diagnosed with lupus. This autoimmune disease can cause a body’s immune system to attack its own cells, and it often means a lot of pain and discomfort for Cannon.
The diagnosis meant a lot of lifestyle changes for Cannon. First, he had to slow down (but not stop) his schedule and give his body time to relax. Another big change was in his diet, which now incorporates anti-inflammatory foods to fight the common side effects of lupus. For people looking for a path back to “normal” after being diagnosed with lupus, Cannon is a great example of someone who takes his needs into account without giving up on his passions.
To quote his interview with HuffPost Live in 2015, “[Lupus is] a disease that people live with every day, and the more education and research that we get on lupus, the better off we will be.”
7. Mariah Carey
The “Supreme Songbird” became a legend because of her vocals, but she has dealt with an invisible illness for much of her career. In 2018, Carey revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, which led to physical and mental distress so severe that she was hospitalized in 2001.
Now that she’s shared her story, Carey no longer worries about “being exposed.” There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but with therapy and proper medication, Carey is free to continue being one of the top-selling vocalists in the world.
Per her interview with People, her goal for the future is, “I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone…It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”
8. Jamie Lynn Sigler
This Sopranos star was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2001, and while she brushed the diagnosis aside at 21, it eventually took her from nightly performances to difficult conversations about her future and her mobility.
“I really feel I’m connecting more because I’m being my true self. I’m still figuring out my life with it, and happy to do it with others who are feeling the same.”
When a doctor told Sigler not to tell anyone about her diagnosis or risk losing her career, she kept it to herself and said that her limitations on set were due to a bad back. But now, after living with MS for over 15 years, Sigler is here to tell people that it hasn’t stopped her life.
Like many people with MS, Sigler retains most of her mobility, so long as she doesn’t run or try to wear high heels on a bad pain day. And if she continues to stick with her treatment plan, she’s likely to be among the two-thirds of people with MS who can still walk.
Now that she has support and a comprehensive treatment plan, Sigler reported to Glamour that “I really feel I’m connecting more because I’m being my true self. I’m still figuring out my life with it, and happy to do it with others who are feeling the same.”
9. Kathleen Turner
In the 1980s, Kathleen Turner churned out hit after hit. But she seemed to take a break after that period, and in 2018 revealed that a big reason for that was rheumatoid arthritis. She describes the level of pain that she was in as “hard to understand,” and her treatments didn’t offer much relief. At the time, she was prescribed “massive doses of steroids” that came with “massive side effects.”
Thankfully, medical science has come a long way, and Turner is now regaining control. She teaches acting, and she told Vulture that “I’m getting stronger all the time. So let’s find out what I can do.”
10. Wendy Williams
In 2018, Wendy William’s hit talk show The Wendy Williams Show took a three-week break while she dealt with the symptoms of Graves’ Disease, another form of hyperthyroidism. For her, this chronic illness came with irregular periods, brain fog, and eye twitching, to name a few symptoms.
After taking some time off to look after herself, Williams came back, and her show continues to run today. By taking time off to look after herself, Williams has shown that people with chronic illnesses must be given accommodations to heal and look after themselves if they are to be their happiest and most successful. While talking with Doctor Oz, Williams revealed her biggest lesson: “I have learned to take time for myself, and stop saying yes to everyone else.”
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